Monday, March 7, 2016

Dillard resurgence complete after beating Xavier to claim 2016 GCAC Tournament crown

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NEW ORLEANSExactly one year ago today Dillard was eliminated from the 2015 GCAC tournament by their bitter rival Xavier, 52-75.  The 23-point loss capped a 5-25 season, the Bleu Devils' 9th straight losing campaign (Dillard didn't play basketball in 2005-06 due to Hurricane Katrina).

Today, Dillard completed an amazing turnaround by defeating Xavier on its home floor 84-71 to win the 2016 GCAC tournament.  The win was the Bleu Devils' 21st of the season, a 16-game improvement over last year.

The Bleu Devils got 22 points and seven rebounds from tournament Most Valuable Player Demetric Austin, 19 points from Jesse Ward and 18 points from Houston Chatman in the victory.

Dillard clinched a trip to the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship and denied Xavier coach Dannton Jackson his first GCAC tournament title.

None of this could have been predicted that night twelve months ago, but the hiring of Mike Newell was the first step in the Bleu Devils' transition from doormat to dominance.

Dillard cruised through the tournament, winning its three games by an average margin of 18.3 points while scoring 86.6 points per contest.

They were no less dominant against the Gold Rush, which entered the game having survived a double-overtime classic against Tougaloo and snapping a seven game losing streak to top-seeded Talladega.

Dillard shot 56 percent from the floor including making 12-of-22 (55 percent) from beyond the three-point line.  The Bleu Devils also converted 22 out of 27 free throw attempts.  They also limited Xavier to 38 percent shooting, by far their worst performance of the tournament.

Gary Smith had a game-high 24 points, but shot just 8-of-19 from the floor.  All-GCAC First Team selection Morris Wright finished with 16 in his last game at the Convocation Center and RJ Daniels and Elex Carter scored 11 points each.

The Gold Rush will now wait until March 9th to find out if they will receive an a-large bid to the men's national tournament. If chosen, it would be the sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.

But today belonged to Dillard.  And, with no seniors on this season's team, a few tomorrow's could belong to the Bleu Devils as well.
2016 GCAC All-Tournament Team
Ronald March, Sr., G, Philander Smith
Morris Wright, Sr., G, Xavier
Jesse Ward, So., G, Dillard
Dennis Hightower, Jr., G, Dillard
Demetric Austin, Jr., F, Dillard

Tournament Most Valuable Player
Demetric Austin, Jr., F, Dillard

Tournament Results
Opening Round
(3) Philander Smith def. (6) Edward Waters, 86-66
(4) Xavier def. (5) Tougaloo, 94-92 (2OT)
(2) Dillard def. (7) SUNO, 81-58

(4) Xavier def. (1) Talladega, 75-67
(2) Dillard def. (3) Philander Smith, 95-76

(2) Dillard def. (4) Xavier, 84-71

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